Australian drivers could face $11,000 fine for tossing lit cigarette in wake of bushfires

Australian drivers could face $11,000 fine for tossing lit cigarette in wake of bushfires
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Drivers in Australian can now face fines of up to $11,000 for throwing lit cigarettes out of their vehicles, a penalty that comes as officials respond to bushfires devastating the region.

The penalty for tossing lit cigarettes out of automobiles took effect on Friday in New South Wales, a southeastern Australian state that has been severely impacted by the uptick in bushfires. Fines of up to $11,000 will be imposed when officials in the state have declared a total fire ban, which occurs in times of extreme weather and bars people from lighting fires and suspends fire permits. 

Drivers would also be penalized up 10 demerit points for committing the offense. It's the first time a demerit point penalty is being enforced for this type of infraction. 

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Car passengers could also face fines of up to $1,320 if they throw lit cigarettes out of vehicles during a total fire ban. Both drivers and passengers could also receive lesser penalties for tossing lit cigarettes during times in which a fire ban has not been called.

The New South Wales government said in a press release that more than 200 people were caught tossing lit cigarettes out of their cars last year.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough hailed the move, saying that “this reckless behavior puts the safety of firefighting volunteers at risk.”

"I hope this move makes people think very carefully about the consequences of their actions next time they go to discard a lit cigarette," he added. 

Earlier this month, officials declared a new state of emergency as bushfires raged in states such as New South Wales and Victoria. About 15 million acres of land has been destroyed throughout the country, and 69 fires were still burning in New South Wales as of Saturday, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said in a tweet. Nineteen of those fires have yet to be contained.

More than 3,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged in New South Wales alone, according to CNN. Twenty-eight people have also perished nationwide amid the spike in fires.